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Continuous improvement – so many choices!



Continuous improvement takes on many forms with a myriad of methodologies that can serve this purpose. The fundamental precept here being that of developing structures that allow processes, protocols or forms to be continuously evaluated for their success, function, usefulness, or value. 


Fine tuning organizational needs, adjusting and trimming the sails means constantly being both in line with and ahead of change or ultimately, need. The old saying of ‘At any given time, you're either moving forward or you're moving backward with no in-between’ is true.  We are either progressing or stagnating. There's no such thing as maintaining the status quo. 

At any given time, you're either moving forward or you're moving backward. 

Part of being a project manager is not just managing, corralling, or organizing but evaluating best practices and assessing if they work for ‘your’ project.  Be it a project postmortem or simply an end of project evaluation of how well the operation did, the notion of lessons learned and ways to improve outcomes is vital to the team. 



The Kaizen method is one such tool worthy of consideration. 

The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen guides the approach of continuous improvement using key steps in the process.  Kaizen was born from the notion that life should be continuously improved so we each can lead more satisfying and fulfilling lives.  This philosophy appeals to me. 


The concept when applied to business creates a forum and framework ideal to accommodate change —so long as you are continuously improving, the business can become more successful. Reaching the goal of continuous improvement is to optimize activities that generate value and to eliminate waste.  Let’s look at the 5 basis principles. 


The Kaizen approach consists of 5 elements: 

  • Teamwork, 

  • Personal discipline or ownership 

  • Improved morale 

  • Quality circles 

  • Suggestions for improvement. 


We all know teamwork, improved morale, quality circle meetings and suggestions for improvement can be useful when creating a feedback loop for how to make things better.  What sets Kaizen apart is the inclusion of the notion of ‘personal discipline’.  Raising the bar for each member of the team to contribute and share the load affords such strength and commitment to each member of the team.  Expressing expectations and rewarding commitment is key to constantly building extraordinary team performance. 


Managing a project requires all the 5 elements to be in motion constantly.  Keeping the team buoyed up under pressure, listening for their needs, improvements and ensuring the team is supported are the drivers towards progress.  It is, however, the power to empower and give license to everyone to own their contributions that makes the Kaizen approach a gift in project management.  Now, if the Kaizen method improves not just a team but everyone on the team, how does it offer value to the ‘organization’ as a whole? 

In short, Kaizen offers corporations enormous benefits. 
  • Greater staff satisfaction. 

  • Improved customer satisfaction. 

  • Reduction in staff turnover. 

  • Strengthened employee loyalty. 

  • Lower costs. 

  • Greater efficiency and productivity. 

  • Better problem solving.

Committed, valued, and involved staff create strong teams and creative environments.

Waste and the Kaizen Story: 

An interesting and increased awareness that arises from the practice of Kaizen in business is the respect for resources and waste.  This extension of the model is equally appealing as sustainability, environmental impacts, respect for resources and managing waste practices is and will continue to be a cornerstone for the world’s future not just from a financial perspective but from an environmental one. 


The three (3) elements of the waste cycle are simple and make so much sense. 


  • Muda (wastefulness): Practices that consume resources but do not add value.   

  • Mura (unevenness): Overproduction that creates waste and/or excess product. 

  • Muri (overburden): Too much strain on resources, including old or worn-out equipment and exhausted or overworked employees. 

While the practices of waste management are focused primarily on manufacturing or production environments the sentiments can easily to translated into any business. 


Ensuring that teams are not wasting time on cumbersome or tiring duties that could be streamlined; ensuring that the business takes a stand on minimizing trash, waste and reducing carbon footprint; providing staff with good quality equipment, technology, and communication access to allow them to work with less constraints and challenges.  The easier we make the simple things, the more time we afford for the creative and meaningful things to be developed or taken care of.   


Kaizen maybe a methodology driven from a philosophy, but the construct allows so much more than just structure around form and function, it supports creativity, growth and a sense of well-being that makes participating a joy and a passion not just a job or a role.  


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DINA O'REILLY

Dina is 4xi's growth lead, project management office and ghostwriter in residence all in one. To learn more about 4xi, you can contact Dina directly at dina@4xiconsulting.com or visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we inspire a brighter future, together: www.4xiconsulting.com


 

4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side, impacting the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.


We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy. Whether client, employee, or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.


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